1. The Australian part of my brain says ‘Life isn’t meant to be all Champagne and macarons’, but the French part (well, I do have Jersey Isle ancestry) insists ‘pourquoi diable ne pas?’ (‘Why the hell not?!’ – and don’t ask me to pronounce that).
Observing the smoking habits of Parisians has presented a contradiction that has cliches like ‘Everything in moderation’ and ‘French women don’t get fat’ floating around in my mind. The French may smoke like chimneys but gee, they know how to embrace the concept of living, and I’m convinced they’re better off for it. Actually, for a nation where 23 per cent of the population smokes regularly, life expectancy is rather healthy at 81+ years, on average just a few months less than in Australia, where only 15 per cent of the population maintains the nasty habit. Granted, there are many indicators that contribute to health, but after observing the streets of Paris for four days, I get the sense that maybe, just maybe, the upshot of taking time to smell the roses counters some of the bad stuff, like cigarettes. French lungs may not be in the best shape, but in terms of overall wellbeing, is someone who enjoys everything moderately, including a few ciggies, really worse off than someone who works themselves to death, suffering at the hands of a stressful job, for instance?
1(a). Case-in-point? French women don’t get fat because one, you can’t eat and smoke at the same time, and two, they probably just go for the baby macarons:
2. When you get lost (and you will), just go with it. Between the distracting lure of croissants, crepes and delectable pastries on every corner, an incredible architectural backdrop and a distinct lack of street grid systems wrong-turns are part of the experience. Also, I have sneaking suspicion that French people maintain a secret code whereby tourists are to be ignored or sent in the opposite direction when seeking help. All part of the grander plan to avoid interacting – kind of like doing a bad job of the dishes so your mum won’t ask you to do it in future. But even wrong turns can be great. A slight deviation here and 20 minutes in the wrong direction there, can take you off the beaten track and lead to a far better experience than you otherwise would have had.
An accidental trip through the backstreets of Rue du Renne and Saint Germain Boulevard en route to the Musee d’Orsay led me to a tasty baguette and one of my favourite street artists, Space Invader, among other things …
3. Years of playing sport sans injury counts for nothing when embarking non-stop walking, day after day. After exploring the Saint Germain precinct, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, large parts of the Latin Quarter and Notre Dam, climbing the steps of Sacre Coeur church in Montmartre, the Champs Elysees, Moulin Rouge, Luxembourg Gardens and Musee d’Orsay on foot, too proud to forego fashionable footwear (if you can’t be stylish in France…), I have sustained considerable bruising around my ankle and developed a limp that channels the spirit of the hunchback of Notre Dam.
3(a). Mini-bars can be helpful for assisting with RICE (Yes, there is also blood between my toes.. ew. Not looking so fashionable now.):
4. Caveau de la Huchette. If you like jazz, swing dancing, or being cool, go there. That is all.
5. A good, clean joke: What did the Leaning Tower of Pisa say to Big Ben? ‘If you’ve got the time, I’ve got the inclination.’ – EasyJet in-flight magazine, Paris to Barcelona.
6. And what else? Getting all art nouveau in my handsome new scarf at the Musee d’Orsay, taking in a show at the Moulin Rouge, Obamarama…